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GWB’s AIDS Funding: Good News, Bad News

June 9th, 2007 | by Daniel DiRito |

The recent announcement that President Bush would seek to increase his Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to 30 billion dollars…doubling the prior 15 billion dollar commitment…is by and large a very positive development in the battle to combat the disease. The additional money should provide much needed medication for over a million infected individuals in Africa; doubling the number being treated with life saving drugs.

From WebMD:

The plan enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, which will ultimately decide how heavily to fund it in coming years. It remains unclear what programs Congress would cut to find an additional $15 billion, and the president on Wednesday made no suggestions in that regard.

The president urged Congress to move quickly on a bill reauthorizing the program, though lawmakers won’t decide on actual funding levels until next year. Quick action would also allow Bush to leave a mark on the program before leaving office, rather than leaving it to his successor to shape the policy.

The bad news is found in the existing program details…which could well be included in the criteria for the additional funding. Current guidelines require that one third of all prevention funding must go to abstinence only programs…programs that haven’t proven to be all that effective in preventing infections in countries where women often lack the autonomy to make their own decisions about sexual relations. Under theses circumstances, the distribution of condoms and thorough sex education seem more practical.

In fact, the recent evidence in Uganda suggests as much…though many of the proponents of abstinence programs disagree. A large number of the groups managing the abstinence programs are faith based organizations that have made their first forays into AIDS relief as a result of the new funding guidelines. No doubt they are motivated by ideological beliefs and financial incentives.

From The Bay Area Reporter:

“We continue to have grave concerns over the misguided restrictions on prevention funding,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. He urged Congress to lift the provision requiring that a third of all prevention funding go to abstinence-only programs “based purely on ideology, instead of proven science-based prevention strategies.”

The Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2007 (HR 1713) would do just that by cutting the abstinence requirement. It was introduced by Representatives Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut).

Anyone interested in understanding the people and the organizations behind abstinence funding should read Michael Reynolds article in The Nation titled The Abstinence Gluttons. They are a force to be reckoned with. Reynolds provides an in depth look at Raymond Ruddy, a prime mover in abstinence only programs and a long time supporter of George W. Bush.

Reynolds concludes that without congressional oversight, money will continue to flow into “Ruddy’s extended family of antiabortion, anti-condom, anti-gay, abstinence-only Protestant evangelicals and Catholics–a radical consortium that threatens the health of millions.” That would be more bad news.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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  1. 19 Responses to “GWB’s AIDS Funding: Good News, Bad News”

  2. By christopher Radulich on Jun 10, 2007 | Reply

    I remember the republicans complaining about spending money on social programs that did not work. I guess that criteria only applies to programs they don’t sponsor.

  3. By kip152 on Jun 10, 2007 | Reply

    Family Values…Faith-Based Initiatives…Aren’t these just other terms for Conservative Republican Agendas?

  4. By tos on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    Did you know that AIDS in Africa is spread by infidelity. Why is it so bad to teach these people to refrain from extra marital affairs? Obviously they are clueless about it and they need to learn to take responsibility for their actions. Why don’t liberals ever want people to be accountable instead of just sticking it where it doesn’t belong.
    These aren’t kids,these are adults and they need to learn how an adult should conduct themself.

  5. By Paul Watson on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    Lisa,
    Yes I did know that. Did you know that abstinanace only programs have a lower success rate than providing condoms? Could you explain why money should be spent on programs that are proven to be less effective?

  6. By tos on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    You know what Paul alot of money has been spent on alot of things that haven’t helped but we continue to do it don’t we? So let’s encourage infidelity.

  7. By Paul Watson on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    Lisa,
    How about: Let’s focus on what’s important, which is saving these people’s lives even if they don’t live the way we’d like them too.
    You want to get more Africans killed by AIDS related diseases because you don’t want to promote infidelity, that’s your privilege. I disagree.

  8. By tos on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    Paul how about some Irish Whiskey in your spot of tea. It may make you a little less uptight.

  9. By Daniel DiRito on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts.

    I think the priority needs to be preventing infection and saving lives…and if the most effective means to achieve that goal is better sex education and the availability of condoms, why would it make sense to pour money into abstinence programs that are not succeeding?

    Why do conservatives need to attach moral judgment to every naturally occurring event? Sex is bad and AIDS is gods punishment…Katrina was god’s punishment…the tsunami was god’s punishment…every weather event and natural disaster must be signaling the rapture because people are sinful. I just don’t get it.

    If one wants to provide moral counseling, then I would argue that it shouldn’t be funded with government dollars. Attempts to equate disease with morality are fraught with pitfalls. Who will determine what the government should consider sinful and requiring moral intervention?

    If overeating leads to disease and death, should we have faith based programs that tell people about the sin of gluttony? Are we going to spend 30 billion dollars on faith-based initiatives to address the diseases that result from gluttony? Shouldn’t people be responsible for what they stick in their mouths…”these aren’t kids, these are adults and they need to learn how a responsible adult should conduct themself.”

    Perhaps if Jerry Falwell had understood the sin of gluttony, he wouldn’t have had heart disease? Was he irresponsible? Does that make him a bad man? Did his death mean that god was punishing him?

    The point is that attaching moral judgments to the practice of healthcare is a slippery slope…one the government, in my opinion, has no business attempting to navigate.

    Again, thanks for your comments and the opportunity to dialogue.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  10. By tos on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    “Why do conservatives need to attach moral judgment to every naturally occurring event? Sex is bad and AIDS is gods punishment…Katrina was god’s punishment…the tsunami was god’s punishment…every weather event and natural disaster must be signaling the rapture because people are sinful. I just don’t get it.”

    Great interpretation there Daniel.

    “If one wants to provide moral counseling, then I would argue that it shouldn’t be funded with government dollars. Attempts to equate disease with morality are fraught with pitfalls. Who will determine what the government should consider sinful and requiring moral intervention”

    But it’s okay for the government to foot the bill,huh?

    I say put the money into Social Security.

  11. By Daniel DiRito on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    Hi tos,

    Thanks for your added comments.

    I’m happy to talk about funding. Let’s assume the government works for the citizenry…and let’s assume that registered Republicans (say 33% of the voters) prefer we use one third of their portion of the 30 billion dollars for abstinence only funding.

    Let’s assume Independents and Democrats make up the other roughly two thirds of voters…and let’s stipulate that the ones who oppose abstinence only funding comprise 60% of the total voting block.

    That would mean that roughly 40% support abstinence only funding…and 40% of 30 billion is 12 billion…so the only money that ought to be able to go to abstinence funding would be the same one third of the 12 billion…not a third of the 30 billion…which would equate with far less abstinence funding.

    The “its okay for the government to foot the bill, huh?” argument always amuses me. Here’s why I find it amusing:

    1. The argument is never applied consistently or democratically…when the democratic process meets the litmus test, no problem on the funding…when it doesn’t…gotta stop the spending.

    2. A large majority of Americans want more stem cell research funding…does the democratic equation apply in that instance? Nope…the President vetoed the bill.

    3. Should we conclude that when push comes to shove, compassionate conservatism is really the equivalent of, “We will spend money helping you if you do what we say…if not, tough luck.” Hey, its George Bush’s program…you want to cut off the funding, stop voting for the GWB’s of the world. I didn’t elect him.

    So you want to put it into Social Security…OK…I don’t want any money going to medical care for overweight men like Jerry Falwell…is that OK with you? He needs to pay his own bills…I didn’t eat all of that food. And Church’s need to start paying taxes…I pay taxes, why shouldn’t they?

    What it apparently comes down to for you is the notion that he who has the gold writes the rules.

    I’d love to hear what you would fund and how you would make those decisions. See, I don’t support religious organizations so I’ve already been put in the evil category so no one should expect me to be kind and compassionate. On the other hand, people of faith want others to admire their compassion and acknowledge their willingness to help others. If we’re gonna cut off all “compassion” funding, then let’s quit pretending I’m the hard hearted atheist and men like GWB and Jerry Falwell are living saints doing the work of the lord.

    Ya gotta tell us where you stand…I’ve told you where I stand…but I’m having a tough time discerning what you believe. Do you want to help the suffering people in the world (and get credit for your compassion) or do you want to tell them they’re all on their own (and admit that you’re just not interested in all this cash eating philanthropy)?

    As best I can tell, I wouldn’t want to have to count on you if I was down on my luck.

    I’ll be anxious to hear your thoughts.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  12. By Craig R. Harmon on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    Why do conservatives need to attach moral judgment to every naturally occurring event?

    I’d like to take a stab at answering this.

    They don’t have to and not all do — I, for example, do not. Evangelicals wiil often look upon natural catastrophes as signs of the end because the Bible tells them that Jesus mentioned such things as earthquakes and other natural signs and disasters as signs of the end times. If one is a follower of Christ, the authority for such interpretation doesn’t get much higher.

    As for interpreting disasters and disease as punishment from God for sin, well, that’s tougher for me to explain. Taking Jesus first, in Luke 13 reports that Pilate had some worshipers killed as they offered sacrifice. Jesus said of them that they were not greater sinners than those who were not slain. That is to say, this was not visited upon them because they were especially great sinners. However, he did connect the event to sin when he said, “I tell you, Nay but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Likewise also he says the same thing of eighteen people who died when a tower fell upon them. Jesus denied that they died because they were worse sinners than others but he drew the same moral from the story: his hearers must also repent lest they meet some similar fate. Televangelists, I think, are merely drawing a similar moral from disasters when they hit America.

    On the other hand, widening out in Scripture, in the book of Job, Job is beset by some awful tragedies: his livestock were rustled by some bands of enemies and destroyed by fire along with most of the servants watching over them, his children were killed in a strong windstorm and he was stricken with disease. These are not, however, portrayed as punishments for Job’s sins but rather as tests visited upon him in spite of his faithfulness.

    On the other hand –let’s see, that makes three hands; hmmm. — the Old Testament is full of stories where the people of God are beset by problems which are specifically related to sins either of individuals or by the nation as a whole. There is a consistent cycle that goes like this: God blesses Israel and Israel prospers; Israel sins; God visits some punishment upon them; Israel repents and is forgiven; God blesses Israel and on and on it goes.

    Evangelicals tend to see this as applying to America as well, based upon this Old Testament pattern and see this as consonant with Jesus’ own teachings.

    For myself, there is an obvious connection between risky behaviors and adverse consequences. Is AIDS God’s punishment for gay behavior? I wouldn’t put it like that. Is AIDS a natural consequence of risky sexual behaviors? Quite obviously but the consequences are not just visited upon gays who engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners whom they’ve just met and IV drug users who share needles. It is also visited upon husbands and wives and babies.

    So I think the question is flawed. Not all Conservatives do see natural disasters and such as punishment for sin. For those who do, I think the above explains why and why.

  13. By tos on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    Daniel-
    Obviously you are Anti-Religion. I am assuming all religions as they are all tax exempt. I agree with you on the fact that they should be paying taxes as do most Americans.
    You talk about not paying medical for overweight people like Jerry Falwell yet you probably don’t mind paying for drug and alcohol abusers. You know there are many overweight people that don’t pay taxes and get free medical care many who are poor because they have poor nutrition or abuse drugs and alcohol.
    I don’t mind if we help suffering people of the world but I feel if we can educate them instead of constantly throwing money at them then why would you be against that? How else can a society better themselves while continuing a live of irresponsibility.
    I particularly like what Craig had to say about the consequences of irresponsible behavior when we have a choice to be responsible.I believe that is what he meant.

  14. By Daniel DiRito on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    Hi Craig,

    Thanks for your insights and observations.

    Please note that my comment about “all conservatives” was a rhetorical “in kind” response to tos’s remark, “Why don’t liberals ever want people to be accountable”.

    With that said, citing the Bible to explain when and if natural disasters or tragic events are god’s punishment or simply tests seems no more valid than the argument that life is a string of random events that we struggle to understand. The fact that faith leads one to believe the Bible is the word of god is still only an act of faith…making it no more authoritative than the theory of random events.

    Let me be clear…I don’t begrudge you your faith…but I’m also not required to accept its authority…nor is the state. That is not to say you are wrong…however your faith need not compel me…just as my science need not compel you…though I suspect that when making a quantitative analysis, science has a better track record.

    I understand man’s need to explain his existence…and I acknowledge the appeal of religious interpretations…I grew up believing them.

    Unfortunately, much of religious interpretation is subjective…when a baby dies, we often hear that god had other plans for that child…other times, we might conclude its punishment for the sins of the parents…but just as you point out that Jesus offered different interpretations for seemingly similar events, what leads we mortals to believe we can make the same interpretations…are we imbued with the powers of god? If I’m not mistaken, that presumption would be sinful.

    Therefore, outside of one’s own efforts to live one’s faith, there is little likelihood that we can objectively discern and apply “God’s” views. Further, expecting the state to do so…in light of our status as flawed and unable to know what god is actually thinking in each given circumstance, how can the state assume that responsibility?

    Let me offer an observation. When Katrina happened, it was stated by a couple religious leaders that it was god’s punishment for the debauchery of New Orleans. The first thought that crossed my mind was that god’s aim needed some improvement…much of the French Quarter was spared serious damage while Senator Trent Lott’s home in a neighboring state was destroyed. I can’t make sense of Katrina nor do I believe that the religious individuals who suggested they did actually had any true insight into what god intended…and that assumes god (if he exists) actually intended anything.

    Isn’t it plausible that in god’s decision to give us free will and the opportunity to live a heavenly existence in Eden…that when we subsequently failed his one instruction and ate from the apple…that he simply instituted a fully random equation that would perpetually puzzle and test our faith…such that none of the natural events here on Earth have god’s purpose guiding them…they are simply random events for us to struggle to understand?

    You see, we can discern numerous circumstances that suffice to explain god’s intentions (and how that is played out here in our earthly lives)…but we certainly cannot know which one is correct…nor did god condone such arrogance.

    Faith is not fact and asking the state to apply faith is, in my opinion, an example of man attempting to emulate god…such that we believe we can not only decide god’s intentions, we can understand and apply the consequences he deems appropriate.

    Granted, there are basic judgments the state must make and one would be hard pressed to disagree with that process…but there are countless other situations that are far less obvious and as such, the state is best to remain neutral.

    I’ll offer one last observation with regards to AIDS. If fidelity is what god intends and expects, why did he make HIV a virtually always fatal disease and the many other sexually transmitted diseases more treatable? Should we interpret that gay infidelity…or perhaps just gay sex…is being singled out by god? What happens if and when a new sexually transmitted disease similar to herpes becomes a fatal disease…will that mean that god equates heterosexual infidelity with gay sex? Does death by AIDS equal death by XYZ disease?

    If we can apply explanations after the fact to human events, why then can’t we predict future events? Isn’t it logical to conclude that god will create a fatal sexually transmitted disease for heterosexual infidelity? When will he institute this new disease? What should we be watching for to know when it will arrive?

    If HIV is cured just before this new disease arrives, will that mean that gay sex is now in favor with god and heterosexual infidelity is now deemed to be a death sentence? Will it mean god has changed his mind? What should the state do to anticipate this new disease? What should the state do once it arrives?

    Should gays then point fingers and object to heterosexual sex and the spending of money to cure the disease that results from that type of sex? Should the state prohibit heterosexual sex or institute punishments for infidelity that would make it akin to sodomy and the associated laws?

    If you know all of these answers, you are a far better man than I. If you can’t be sure in what you know, how far are you willing to go in applying what you think you know? If you’re wrong, are you prepared to face god’s wrath?

    Craig, no doubt life is complicated…and no doubt we would do well to tread lightly in our assumptions and how we apply them.

    Thanks again for the dialogue.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  15. By tos on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    Paul Watson-
    I was just trying to be funny about my the Irish Whiskey comment. I hope you aren’t too upset with me.

  16. By Daniel DiRito on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    tos,

    By challenging religious beliefs and the inconsistent application of the doctrines that religious people readily profess, I am not guilty of being anti-religion…I am guilty of applying reason and logic to that which I see and hear. Should that happen to make you uncomfortable…or at a loss to refute the discrepancies or hypocrisy that I have made note of…it doesn’t make me anti-religion.

    If all hypocrisy originated from religion…that would not necessarily mean all religious people were hypocrites. At the same time, if all hypocrites were religious…that wouldn’t make all religion hypocritical.

    My impression is that you have a tendency to use a broad brush when sharing your observations and you gloss over the inconsistencies I’ve described.

    I’m simply suggesting that you fail to apply your beliefs consistently because you have inherent bias…that doesn’t make you good or evil…it just makes you inconsistent.

    I don’t present myself as someone like Jerry Falwell…a man who was prone to judging the lives of others with a certainty no man can justify. I’ve simply pointed out that Mr. Falwell’s actions were hypocritical and were I to act like him; I would seek to punish people who are overweight because they aren’t acting responsibly.

    We aren’t discussing specific illnesses…we are discussing the application of consistent principles by people who like to define themselves on a regular basis…complete with attributes, beliefs, and certainties. I’m simply making note of the discrepancies.

    When you suggest that I would probably be ok with spending money for drug and alcohol abusers, you are likely demonstrating one of the following:

    1. Bias (I must like to drink and do drugs but I dislike overweight people?)

    2. An inability to follow my argument (If we’re going to educate and / or punish people for their behavior, I want it to apply to everyone).

    3. An unwillingness to acknowledge the points I’ve made in my argument (You see the inconsistencies I’ve described when comparing Jerry Falwell’s behaviors to those of people in Africa but you won’t say as much).

    As to spending money on drug and alcohol abusers…my argument would require a consistent application of my beliefs. If I elected to not fund AIDS care in Africa because of my concern about behavior choices, then I would apply the same principles to overweight people, drug users, and alcohol abusers.

    If compassion were my objective, then I would fund all of the programs regardless of the fact that their needs may result from behavior choices.

    Its either a buffet or it isn’t…my menu isn’t set up to be a la carte pick and choose based upon my own particular bias. I’m either gonna help everyone equitably or help no one equitably…and I’m not going to attach different strings to each simply because I want to or because I think I’m entitled to create my own hierarchy of bad behavior…I not that smart or that arrogant.

    Anyway, thanks again for the exchange. I do enjoy a robust debate.

    Regards,

    Daniel

  17. By christopher Radulich on Jun 11, 2007 | Reply

    None of which answer why we are funding programs that are proven not to work. Again I keep hearing the Republicans complaining about how the democrats kept throwing money at programs that some times caused more damage than the problems they were to fix. I completely agree with this. I am just showing the hyprocrocy of those who complained in the past and now give programs like abstinence a walk.

  18. By Paul Watson on Jun 12, 2007 | Reply

    Lisa,
    Believe me, it takes much more than an obvious joke on a message board to make me upset.

    I still disagree with you, but the fact that the programs don’t work and will result in more deaths than the alternative programs is still a fact, and is my best argument. If condemning people to a long and painful death because the programs you support doesn’t work but the ‘immoral’ alternative does isn’t enough to convince you to change, I doubt any other argument would. So I choose to keep quiet rather than start a snark battle.

  19. By tos on Jun 12, 2007 | Reply

    Well I see nothing wrong with educating people about how to conduct themselves. It’s not like we aren’t going to provide them with condoms as well.
    It’s like the saying
    “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. . . teach a man to fish and you feed him forever”

  20. By Paul Watson on Jun 12, 2007 | Reply

    Actually, Lisa, the whole point is that the money is going to abstinance ONLY programs, so no, you’re not providing them with condoms as well. I’ve got no problem with abstinance as part of the package, but on it’s own it does. Not. Work!

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